Volunteer Time Tracking Requires A Delicate Promotion | Track It Forward

Time Tracking Systems Require Efficient Implementation and Promotion to Be Successful

Last updated by James McBryan on 03/16/2021

Does everyone in your organization know where to go to log hours, how to get access to their submissions, make changes, sign up for events, and who to contact for help? Or are your volunteers constantly asking you these questions? 

If you aren’t being proactive about your time tracking system and promoting how volunteers use it correctly - you will get bombarded with these questions and volunteers will lose their motivation to track hours. As we’ve discussed, when volunteers do not have the motivation to track their hours using your time tracking system- the data is not accurate. 

Are there proper ways to avoid this? Of course. Managing volunteers and keeping track of their hours does not have to be stressful. If you spend some extra time doing the heavy lifting initially, it will save you lots of headaches in the future. Your time tracking system is the software you are going to use, and the process a volunteer will go through to use the time tracking software. 

When you implement this new time tracking system immediately with a strong set of goals and a bit of patience, your volunteers will catch on quickly, and then time tracking will be efficient and accurate. But, this will only work if you are actively implementing the time tracking system at multiple volunteer events. 

For some organizations, getting people to volunteer is just HALF the battle. The other half is making sure that they are keeping a record of that time with your implemented time tracking system. 

To help outline how you can market, promote, and fully implement your time tracking system to your volunteers,download our promoting at different events worksheet! It will help you evaluate when and how you can use the following processes in your organization to implement your time tracking system into your volunteer program. 

What makes up a time tracking system? 
You have a volunteer program and specific volunteer activities, everything functions in a specific way - a workflow. (For example, volunteers sign up to events or shifts then show up, or volunteers come to meetings to sign up.)
A place for your volunteer program to log hours, for you to pull hours for reports, and a spot where all data from volunteering is stored. This is where the time tracking system comes together. If you have an efficient volunteer program and efficient time tracking software- they come together here! Volunteers need to know how to use the time tracking software and have their own process for this.

4 Processes To Help Implement and Promote Your Time Tracking System 

The Grand Announcement

Whenever you roll out with a new system, or if you’re starting a new calendar year, or speaking at a welcome meeting to new volunteers, you always want to make sure you spend ample time introducing your means of volunteer time tracking. Keep in mind, it’s important to spend equal time on HOW to track volunteer hours and WHY you track volunteer hours. 

When we are working with a new organization on their onboarding strategy, we always recommend that they introduce the program in person first, if possible. Announcing the program in person allows volunteers to voice any questions or concerns right away, reducing the number of emails that you can expect in the future. Use those meetings to talk about the following topics will be a great way to fully implement your time tracking system into your volunteer program and to promote the method you are using as the best for everyone involved.

  • the different ways to track hours in the time tracking system

  • what the expectations are for tracking hours

  • what are the penalties and incentives for tracking hours correctly 

  • who to contact if any questions arise

  • the benefits of this approach versus another time tracking system (it’s always helpful if you tell the volunteers this will be easier for them in the long run)

The last one is supercritical! If you are able to promote how effective and beneficial your time tracking system is, your volunteers will be more likely to track their hours how you would like them to. 

Tip: After that meeting, send out an email so that volunteers have all the information in writing and in case anyone missed the meeting, they will learn about it here as well. However, if you don’t have a meeting to announce the program, share it on your social media, your newsletter, bulletin, and try to include it anywhere else your volunteers may be already visiting.

Time Tracking System Training Sessions

You may have the simplest volunteer time tracking program, but if you don’t provide enough information to your volunteers about all the what’s, how’s, and why’s, then you are leaving room for error and confusion. Training can be included in the initial introductory meeting or it can be left separate. 

The more time you can invest initially when the time tracking system is implemented and for new volunteers, the higher the chance that your volunteers will use the program to track their hours. If you are able to train in person, run through the volunteer workflows to capture the majority of people’s attention who are visual learners. Have someone record this training (even if it’s on your phone!), upload it to a private youtube channel, then share it! Remember, if it’s a simple program to use (like Track it Forward) it shouldn’t take long to explain how to use it.

But, by providing these training programs you eliminate the chance for volunteers to say “well I don’t know how to use the time tracking system.” Which will be something you hear! A great software system should also have help libraries that you can direct volunteers to if your time tracking training session isn’t enough. Or, you could run your training session off of the help library as well! 

Periodic Updates and Feedback on the Time Tracking System

This is your feedback loop. Your volunteers need to know how well they are doing and they also need to know when they are not. 

Periodic updates on your time tracking system efficiency can be used to remind volunteers to track hours, but they should also include positive notes.  Use updates to show off the volunteers that are succeeding individually or how the volunteer group as a whole is impacting the community. Whenever you can show actual impact related to the hours logged, it carries a much more significant meaning. Also, don’t be afraid to use these opportunities to remind your volunteers of the penalties and what it means to the organization when hours are missing. 

In terms of when and where to do these updates, again it’s up to you! Every organization has different primary channels of communication. Your announcement can be part of an email, a social media post, a bulletin board, or flyer, or if you have regular meetings, do it then. Sharing in person, especially in a large setting, will always make the biggest impact. If you have a short time frame to tracking hours, consider making a bi-weekly or monthly announcement. If you have a longer time frame, you can stretch this out quarterly, but do not stress about whether or not you’re bringing this up too much or not. 

We recommend that you map out these updates, so you are reminded when to do them. download our worksheet to help map out all the time tracking system promotion for your volunteers. 

Create a Central Location of Help Information That is Always Accessible 

Do your volunteers know where to go to get information if they have any questions? Don’t use email as the first point of support, because you’ll get bombarded with a lot of questions and a lot of times, they will be the same questions. Make it a point, before you announce your volunteer time tracking program, to make sure that you’re using all your resources  to share information about the program:

  • This could be a designated page on your website with simple FAQs

  • It could be a designated folder on your Facebook group page

  • It could also be training manuals, knowledgebase, & video tutorials. 

  • Sometimes, if you have a good software program, like Track it Forward, they’ll provide you with all this information so you don’t have to create it yourself. But if you want volunteers to track their hours, make sure that you’re giving them all the resources possible to make sure that they are successful.

To wrap things up, there is obviously a multitude of ways to promote, implement, and remind your volunteers about your time tracking system. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, every channel works best for certain types of feedback and reminders. 

Hopefully, you’re not overwhelmed but instead encouraged with all the options that you have. Like we’ve mentioned all throughout this series, getting volunteers to actually keep track of their hours can be tough.  However, if you have the right system and structure in place, if you have the right reasons for you and volunteers to track time, you’re promoting the time tracking system really well, and there’s even some awards and incentives for the volunteers (we’ll talk about that next), then we guarantee they’ll track their hours!